Digging out of the Blizzard of 2015 (still)

As I write, in the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2015, wondering if that thing called bombogenesis actually happened the other day, I find myself thinking not about the drifting heaps of snow I'm still shoveling, but about the cost of climate change. Read more...

Giving Thanks, NAMA-Style

Check out this month's newsletter to keep up to date on the latest in our network. From Rock the Boat to Amendment 18 and a student-led movement to shift higher ed's food system - take a peek! 

Be Brave.

December 20, 2013

Greetings!

If we are serious about protecting the ocean, we must bravely address inequities and injustices in the system. And I hope you'll stand with us as we do. 

Last week at the conclusion of a Food Solutions New England meeting we were asked: how we will address issues of racial inequity and food injustice in our work? FSNE is a network of organizations, including NAMA, focused on figuring out how as New Englanders can we feed ourselves mostly locally caught, raised and grown food in a few decades while dismantling racial inequity and food injustice in our food system. A brave undertaking.

My only thought at the end of the meeting was we must be brave. On the drive home I realized I was telling myself to be brave more than I was telling my colleagues in the room. Must admit I am nervous about how this commitment will further transform our work and approach. The language of today's marine conservation movement is not written with racial equity and food justice in mind. And fisheries policies are from just and equitable. So I anticipate resistance to our work. Until recently, the two worlds of food justice advocacy and ocean advocacy didn't even intersect. This is a shame since our excuse for killing marine animals is to feed ourselves.

We already took the brave step to focus our work on linking these two worlds, and what has emerged has been inspiring and empowering. We appreciate your support getting us this far. But we need to do more - and we need you to be there as we do. Because the more we learned, the more we saw the marginalization of the communities all throughout our food system including fishing communities, often driven by race and income.

Why do race and equity matter to marine conservation? Because race continues to be the major factor for how entire communities are treated, impacting access to resources and the cost of basic needs in communities of color. Race and equity are the reasons why many communities are treated unjustly or taken for granted, and often left with limited or non-existent choices when it comes to securing healthy, clean, fair food along the entire food chain. You can get a glimpse into the data around racial inequity and food injustice by visiting this link.

When it comes to fishing, we see race and equity play a major role. Indonesian fishermen being held in slavery conditions off New Zealand; child labor used to grow the shrimp for Walmart; here in the US communities of color see access to seafood being limited to highly processed, boxed, and overpriced "seafood products" at the corner bodegas... all the while fishermen around the globe continue to fish under unjust price controls, fighting against corporate takeover and privatization strategies, and often ending up fishing in the red. These issues have a direct relationship with how we treat the ocean, yet they are silo-ed as human rights issues or economic justice issues. They are marine conservation issues and it's time we addressed them in that context. But we must be brave to do this work justice.

Frankly, the marine conservation movement needs to change if issues of racial equality and food justice are to be addressed. Today, this movement is pretty homogenous and does not address the issues of race, equity and access. These issues are considered peripheral to saving the fish, when in fact inequity and injustice play a major role in fisheries policies and seafood value chain. 

It's time to change the face of the marine conservation movement, and we need your help to do that.

Most of the marine conservation campaigns and messages target upper middle class and white populations. Our work is a whole new way of looking at and talking about what it takes to protect the ocean and, like any new way of approaching social and environmental change, is not always welcomed or understood. As Gandhi said "be the change you want to see in the world." Knowing what we know, it's our responsibility to create the changes necessary to ensure just and equitable fisheries and food systems.

Please join us in this bold and brave approach, and stand up without fear to those who have been controlling the fishing and agriculture worlds, often at the cost to the animals, the land, the ocean and those who are working on land and sea.

Without dealing with racial inequity and food injustice we will not succeed at our ultimate goal of marine conservation and will go on compromising the accessibility, viability and sustainability of the marine environment and our entire food system.

Thank you for helping us be brave.

Happy Holidays, 

 

Niaz Dorry

Coordinating Director

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

 

DOG(fish) DAYS of SUMMER

Most people take it easy in August; we ramp things up! Check out our latest newsletter about how we're making high impact, having family style events, reaching markets, policy makers and the public through and tracking down dogfish!

Hellos, Goodbyes and Updates

Check out our latest newsletter introducing you to our new team members, saying goodbye to old ones, updates on a whole host of fronts including Too Big To Ignore conference in Vancouver, Food Solutions New England's NE Food Summit in Portland, FARNET's gathering in Stockholm, upcoming events, recent blogs, and much more.

Spring Greetings from NAMA

It's hard to send greetigs without acknowledgeing that so many peole are suffering around the world. Here in the greater Boston area, many are still reeling from last week's violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected, and all of you who may be living with violence in some way. We hope this spring brings peaceful new beginnings to all our friends around the globe. We're getting ready for a busy season in all areas of our work, from consumer outreach to the policy changes we've been pushing for. Read on to find out what NAMA is up to - and how you can get involved in our work supporting small-scale, community-based fisheries so the ocean can have a future.

Setting the Record Straight

After hearing about mischaracterization of our work that was affecting the safety and comfort of the fishermen we work with, we felt it was important to set the record straight. Read more.

Hello Summer

Slow Food USA Leadership Meeting in New OrleansAs fishermen from Alaska to Maine gear up for the season, NAMA is, too. Our Seafood Throwdowns kick off later this week in Providence, Rhode Island, and the summer is full of festivals and events like celebrating local fish and fishing communities, as well as our local food, farmers, chefs and of course the consumers who have the power to use their spending habits to change fisheries policies. Join us and dig in!

Loud and Clear - March 15, 2013

The message from the Who Fishes Matters Tour was pretty clear: Fish grabs and consolidation of fisheries access into a few hands is a real and urgent problem; Safeguards to protect small business fishermen and ensure a more diverse fleet that includes small, medium, and large scale is the solution; Solutions must address the current short term crisis; and, We need to act now before it's too late. Read more in our recent newsletter and check out the new video from the Center for Investigative Reporting that further supports what we've heard so far.

2012 DECEMBER NAMA NEWSLETTER

COMMONS SENSE

By Niaz Dorry, NAMA’s Coordinating Director

What are the Commons? I hear that word more often these days in all sort of places. In the fisheries world, almost all management strategies discussed over the past few decades that have resulted in privatization, industrialization, marginalization, and consolidation of the fish and the fishermen seem to only rationalize how some have defined Garrett Hardin’s message in The Tragedy of the Commons.

Personally, I never gave much thought to the word "commons" till I started working on fisheries issues in 1994 and heard it defined as an evil that needed to be exorcised through privatization schemes. I’ve done some growing up since then and have come to learn a lot more about this word “commons.” You can read more about my perspective on the commons next week when On the Commons (OTC) will run an interview with me in their magazine. OTC works on protecting and reclaiming our commons - from water, land, seeds, food, art, you name it. I encourage you to check 'em out.

In the meanwhile, I invite you to read Brett’s piece on how fleet diversity will help us gain some commons ground, and Boyce’s piece about what it all means to other regions as well as the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.

Happy Holidays.

Niaz Dorry, NAMA's Coordinating Director

A18 POLICY TO PROTECT FAMILY FISHERS IS MAKING WAVES

By Brett Tolley, NAMA’s Community Organizer

In late November New England fisheries policy makers voted to make the Fleet Diversity Amendment (A18) a top priority for 2013. Letters, testimonies, and petition signatures poured in to help make this possible. A huge thanks for all the support!

 

Why is A18 so important?  In 2010 New England began a Catch Share policy program that was designed without proper safeguards in place. The rationalization has been to address the tragedy of the commons by allowing anyone to own the rights to fish today and in the future. As a result, we’re seeing the displacement of family fishers, loss of rural community infrastructure, and a concentrated fishing pressure from larger boats around key inshore areas affecting those fish populations. A18 is the opportunity to fix what is not working.

A18 and community safeguards are not just important for New England fisheries. Catch Share programs are now being promoted internationally and without safeguards in place these programs will continue to displace family fishers and hand over fishing access and rights to the big box boat industry. Support for community safeguards and A18 can counter this direction and steer us toward communities taking back control over their own food system and stewardship over the common resource.

It’s crucial to keep the pressure on. The fisheries Council will meet again in January, and they need to hear that these safeguards matter. Safeguards matter to save the fish, they matter to save fishermen, and they matter to save our coastal communities. 

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition started by fisherman Ron Borjeson. Also please visit our ‘Who Fishes Matters’ campaign page to hear testimonies from working fishermen and learn more about fleet consolidation. Plus, keep your eyes out for upcoming action opportunities!

 

A18 AND THE MSA

By Boyce Thorne Miller, NAMA’s Science Coordinator

As we rapidly approach 2013, the year the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA) comes up for reauthorization, the concepts and alternatives we have been developing for A18 will offer much fodder for improving MSA.  Ironically, MSA reauthorization could happen within a shorter timeframe that A18, thus emphasizing the snail’s pace at which the Council processes often move, usually due to political pressure from those who have something to lose because of the decisions at hand.  

The final decisions on A18 will certainly not be available to Congress as they deliberate initial proposals for amending the MSA.  Watching the pace of A18 makes one wonder if National Standard 6—the need for adaptive flexibility in fisheries management—has ever been a real consideration.

Nevertheless, the very need for A18 to place important safeguards on Catch Share management and the recognition by the NOAA regional administrator that this amendment to protect fleet diversity recognizes problems critical not only to New England groundfish but also to other fisheries management, make it highly relevant to MSA reauthorization.  Community-based fishermen around the country are looking at this effort in New England as a portent of hope that their own regions may correct or avoid consolidation-driving management measures that threaten their very existence as well as our ocean commons—as in the Pacific region where smaller fishing operations are gravely threatened by new management plans with little benefit to the actual fish populations. New England’s work on A18 is vital.

MSA 2006 requires the “protection of traditional fishing communities” (National Standard 8), and that is exactly what A18 goes to.  Maintaining fleet diversity is a means of maintaining traditional fishing communities, managing fisheries truly for the greater benefit of the nation (National Standard 1) and a means of maintaining biological diversity in the fishery ecosystems (National Standard 3).

 


 

Boston Fish Party - NAMA Newsletter, June 28, 2012

A 70+ year prohibition on sale of locally caught seafood is lifted in Boston! And we were there to enjoy the moment along with Mayor Menino and others. Also in this edition, the fleet diversity results are in and those in favor outweighed those pushing for consolidation by 5 to 1, and our first marine science review. Check out our latest newsletter to get the details.

 

Why I'm Fasting - NAMA Newsletter March 2, 2012

 

By Niaz Dorry
NAMA's Coordinating Director
I'm starting a fast on Monday, March 5th as part of the Fast for Fair Food in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. 
 
Last time I fasted for a political reason was in 1992. I was living along the Ohio River in Chester, West Virginia; working with community advocates fighting the WTI Incinerator, the world’s largest toxic waste incinerator located across the river in East Liverpool, Ohio. For 44 days the work, not food, is what fed my body. I know the experience was spiritually and physically significant for all 25 of us who took part. Personally, I was humbled by the experience and knowing so many of my heroes had endured much more grueling fasts and hunger strikes to bring an end to injustices around the world.
 
Twenty years later, I find myself moved to fast again. I'm inspired by the work CIW and others are doing to bring justice to our food system. (Click here to read the whole newsletter)

 

 

Get Big or Get Out - NAMA Newsletter May 11, 2012

By Brett Tolley

NAMA's Community Organizer


A fisherman recently told me he paid $.80 per pound to lease fish quota, or the rights to catch fish. That same day he only got paid 60 cents per pound when he landed the fish at the dock.


He actually went into the red.


And the worst part, he said, was knowing how that fish would end up being sold somewhere for $8-15 per pound to a customer who would believe a large chunk of that price went into the fisherman's pocket. "They will never know I lost money to catch and deliver that fish," he said. I wish they knew because if they did know, I'm certain our policies and discussions about 'sustainably' caught fish would be quite different.


Family fishers increasingly feel the squeeze from all sides; markets that do not pay a price to cover the true cost of overhead, policies that place disproportionate hardships on the small and medium scale fishing operations, and unpredictable as weather stock assessments. All these challenges lead to shrinking profit margins, fishers taking on more risk and debt, and forcing many to either scale-up and catch more fish or sell out. If we are serious about protecting the ocean and rebuilding fish stocks scaling up is not the way.

 

(Click here to read the full newsletter)

The CODsolidation Emergency - NAMA Newsletter February 9, 2012

Fisherman Mike PrattFisherman Michael Pratt (right) from Green Harbor, Massachusetts wrote the piece below as part of his testimony to the New England Fisheries Management Council for the fleet diversity Amendment 18 Scoping hearings. Ten scoping hearings took place around New England to gather public input on the proposed Amendment 18 which aims to deal with fleet diversity and concentration of quota ownership. Click to watch Michael's testimony. Also see fisherman Ron Borjeson and fisherman Alex Friedman offer similar testimony during two other Amendment 18 Scoping hearings.


With their permission, we will be featuring the testimonies of fishermen and women during the scoping process on our blog - http://whofishesmatters.blogspot.com/. (Click here to read the full newsletter)

Send Lawyers Guns and Money - NAMA Newsletter, December 8, 2011

By Niaz Dorry - NAMA's Coordinating Director

...well, we really only need the money and the lawyers! You can keep the guns. We're non-violent. And, we've had enough gun encounters to last us a while.

I was all ready to send you a decked out newsletter, but then read the most recent blog by our community organizer, Brett Tolley. He writes about how being held up at gunpoint recently taught him about the value of our work connecting fisheries to the broader food justice movement. To say his words inspired me would be an understatement. What was equally inspiring was a comment left by a reader telling Brett "If everyone confronted with violence was as clear-eyed as you were in this situation, the violence would not get passed on so often as it does. Thanks for your perspective -- and may we all keep the big picture in mind as we are confronted by personal and systemic violence."

So instead of sending the original newsletter, I decided to send you Brett's blog. I don't expect all of you to cry like I did reading it, but I hope it moves you. You can follow our blog by visiting http://whofishesmatters.blogspot.com, but I'll spare you a step this time as I've added Brett's blog below.

Oh, and why do we need lawyers and money? Like for the rest of the world, these are lean times for NAMA. Please consider supporting our work by making a donation today. And, as for lawyers, we are making great headway on the Fleet Diversity front. Currently we are working with fishing communities around New England to develop alternatives for an Amendment that may shape the future of New England fisheries. To do this work justice, we'll need some legal analysis. So if you or someone you know has background in environmental law and wants to put it to good use by offering some pro-bono help to our work on fisheries policies, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Now, get a box of tissue and enjoy Brett's blog. (Click here to read the full newsletter)

What Really Matters - NAMA Newsletter August 2011

by Niaz Dorry - NAMA Cordinating Director

(NOTE: to read the entire newsletter please CLICK HERE)

These days it seems everyone is telling us what should matter to us. One ad tells us “where you book [our travels] matters” and another that “taste matters.” For us right now, knowing you support our work really matters. In fact, your support and that of our new partners and collaborators really mattered last week when the work to stop consolidation and concentration of fishing power cleared a major hurdle. Although we try to keep you abreast of our work through these newsletters and action alerts, to stay on top of what matters to us, I invite you to “like” us on Facebook so we can keep you up to date on happenings, events and news as they happen. You can also follow our new blog. There is so much going on that matters to us – and we hope to you – in between these newsletters and we don’t want you to miss any of it.

So what matters to us? Almost three years ago here at NAMA we started saying who fishes matters, scale matters, and where, when and how we fish matters. Believe it or not, this line of thinking has been met with quite a bit of resistance because for decades we’ve been told that all that really matters are the formulas that tell us how many of single species of fish we can kill. Well, if you ask me if our goal is saving the ocean and not just human appetites it really matters that the formulas determining how much fish we can catch include the impact on the whole ecosystem, our communities, our economy and our food system. Today’s formulas don’t address these issues that really matter. It’s time for a paradigm shift – and your participation will matter.

Our Who Fishes Matters slogan turned into a full fledged campaign last year leading to some interesting opportunities for policy transformation [link to the council piece of the newsletter] that recognizes the need for fleet diversity and a stop to rapid consolidation of our fishing fleet for the sake of our ocean, our marine economies, our coastal communities and our local food systems. It’s been exciting to see the broad base support for this campaign. We saw our expanded network’s influence at work recently when just last week [link to wherever we have the council update from last week’s decision].

This expanded network includes farm worker organizations working for healthy farming communities that are producing good local food for us; food sovereignty activists working to ensure our right to food is preserved and not taken over by Wall Street and the commodities market; chefs who are beginning to switch from using lists that tell them what to cook to using their principles that move them to source their seafood locally; local economy advocates that see the ecological and social value of community based fishing operations; and, consumers who are getting a new taste for seafood by joining the growing movement of community supported fisheries (CSF) around the country. It was so heartening to see the list of those who signed our latest pledge for fleet diversity include so many folks who identified themselves as local food advocates.

Recently I had a chance to attend the annual conference of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), which was pretty much a mosaic of all these segments of our society. It was refreshing and reassuring to see how well Who Fishes Matters message resonated with the BALLE networks. Interestingly, the theme for this year’s BALLE conference was Place Matters. You can read more about my BALLE experience by visiting our blog.

All of these are feeding the spirits of coastal fishing communities who despite what the media tells us aren’t fighting to catch the last fish, but fighting to tell us that we need to make sure regulations don’t drive our fisheries down the same path they led our farms. They’ve been trying to tell us that there are other choices besides scaling up or selling out to the likes of agribusiness. But the advertising and political machines of the industrial food production have manipulated the process telling us that the only thing that matters is getting cheap seafood regardless of all the costs.

It’s time to speak up and tell policy makers what really matters to you. Tell them we’ve learned enough bad lessons and we’re not going to let another part of our social fabric, economic system and environment be torn into shreds all so that Wall Street can control yet another part of our lives – this time our ocean. Learn more about our campaign by visiting our Who Fishes Matters blog and liking us on Facebook. You can also upload your own video on why you think Who Fishes Matters by clicking on this link. Or sign our pledge that we’ll take to the fisheries policy makers so they can hear you even if you can’t be there.

I know all this sounds like we are also telling you what should matter to you. Well, we are. But we are not in it to sell tickets or book hotel rooms or get you to buy our product. We’re just asking you to buck the system that pretends to tell us what’s right and wrong and instead think for yourself, reflect back on the lessons learned over the past few years and draw your own conclusions. We’re pretty confident you’ll end up agreeing with us that pushing decimal points around in fisheries management formulas only takes us so far and ultimately what will really matter is who is in the wheelhouse, where they choose to fish, what kind of ethics they bring to their fishing operation, and how many generations ahead they are thinking about when they set their gear. So, yes… ultimately who fishes matters a lot.

Thank Your Fishermen - NAMA Newsletter April 22, 2011

We hear a lot about Farm to School, Farm to Table, Thank Your Farmer and all kinds of events and initiatives focused on our land-based food system and appreciation for our farmers. But we hardly see that focus on our marine based food system and thanking our fishermen. That has changed over the past few years mostly thanks to the increased awareness Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) and other initiatives have created. We at NAMA are proud to be at the epicenter of this work along with our fellow collaborators and fishermen. To continue reading this newsletter please click here.

To continue reading this newsletter please click here.

Fleet Diversity Gains Traction - NAMA Newsletter December 2010

A Year End Message From NAMA Staff

At NAMA we feel lucky to be able to work amongst and amidst people who are passionate and caring about healthy oceans. From the Fish Locally Collaborative folks who help guide our every step to the fishermen, community and food activists who have come together to embrace new ideas such as Community Supported Fisheries. We really feel that despite knowing that there are significant challenges in the coming year, the work that is being done will lead us to the kind of healthy ocean and healthy communities we all value.

2010 was a year to watch the seeds of 2009 sprout and become strong. Another 8 new CSF's formed, science continued to emerge supporting finer scale management, and of course we gained some traction around fleet diversity in the New England Fishery Management Council (see article below) These are just some of the things that happened with the help and support of our cohorts, conspirators, collaborators and well wishers, to all of whom we offer a heartfelt and sincere thanks. We are looking forward to another year connecting peoples and fish in rewarding, sustainable and productive ways. Have a great holiday season and New Year!

With Kind Regards,


The NAMA Team

Fleet Diversity Gains Traction; NEFMC Votes to Make an Amendment Protecting
 a Diverse Fleet Priority in 2011
by Sean Sullivan - NAMA Staff  

A critical step forward in the battle to save the community-based fleet took place two weeks ago when the New England Fisheries Management Council voted to address fleet diversity as a priority in the upcoming year. This marks a sea-change of sorts considering Fleet Diversity was off the council’s radar as recently as last spring. The change is the direct result of many of you choosing to weigh in through your signature, testimonies and other means.

The vote marks a culmination of efforts by NAMA and our partners including fishermen, food system activists, community advocates, and non-profit allies who traveled to testify, recorded video, signed our petition, and spread the message that ‘Who Fishes Matters’. Together, we worked to ensure family based fishermen and fishing communities are fairly represented and protected in the new Catch Share regime. We are forging the path toward a shared Fleet Vision and now look to the challenges ahead.

The vote also marks the beginning of a much more difficult and perhaps protracted battle: How do you define Fleet Diversity? And how do you achieve fleet diversity? Based on the Fleet Vision Project, which has a clear vision statement on Fleet Diversity, and evidence from other Catch Share programs the measures we feel will ensure the diversity of the fleet include: fishing quota set-asides that invest in fishing communities, leasing policies that foster an affordable fishery, owner-operator incentives, opportunities for new and/or younger fishermen to enter the fishery, and accumulation limits.

Each of these measures tackles a different aspect of a diverse fleet and ultimately will ensure an ecologically viable and sustainable ecosystem supporting an economically and socially just fishery. However no single measure in and of itself will work to ensure a diverse fleet.

(To Continue Reading This Article Please Click Here)

Terra Madre, Slow Food, and Slow Fish
by Brett Tolley - NAMA Community Organizer

Ciao from Italy! Once every two years Slow Food International’s Terra Madre conference in Torino, Italy brings together thousands of players in the food chain who together support sustainable and local food systems in countries around the world.

Our team from New England led a Terra Madre workshop called Between Land and Sea highlighting the critical connection between farmers and fishers. The panel featured NAMA’s Brett Tolley, Ellen Tyler and Amanda BealBrett Tolley and Amanda Beal present at Terra Madre (Tufts University and the By Land and By Sea Project), Lisa Fernandes (Eat Local Foods Coalition), Robin Alden and Ted Ames (Penobscot East Resource Center), and Russell Libby (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association-MOFGA).

Slow Food International recently launched a campaign called Slow Fish aimed at supporting responsible fishing communities and promoting good, clean, and fair fishing. Over the course of the conference fishers, including members of the New England delegation, laid the tracks for Slow Fish’s guiding document that will shape the campaign’s direction moving forward. NAMA is working closely with Slow Fish organizers to finalize the document and help make the Slow Fish campaign a powerful tool for fishing communities around the world.

Terra Madre day is December 10! Already more than a hundred countries will bring together local Slow Food networks of farmers, fishers, producers, schools, cooks, and members in hundreds of creative events to celebrate local food, with many highlighting the right to a healthy daily diet, particularly the world’s poorest people.

Help promote better food systems. Join Terra Madre in creating ‘a global revolution with local roots’. Visit Terra Madre’s website to learn more.

 

Who Fishes Matters - Preserving the health of the oceans, fishing communities and our food system.

If we care about the health of our oceans, fishing communities, and our food system, then who fishes matters. But fisheries policies and regulations don’t reflect this and we’re working to change that.

In New England, the groundfish fishery is transitioning into a new ‘Catch Share’ management system, with its promises to improve ecological stewardship of our oceans. However, we know that uncontrolled ‘Catch Share’ programs haven’t taken into account who actually fishes for our seafood. Instead, around the world Catch Shares have consolidated the fishing industry into monolithic, industrial scale, absentee owner fishing fleets. We believe this direction undermines communities, ecosystems, and our food system.

To continue reading please CLICK HERE.

Cod's Many Places - NAMA Newsletter August 2010

By Niaz Dorry
NAMA's Coordinating Director

Over the past year, our work with the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community Supported Fishery (CSF) has stirred up some controversy. The CSF has been delivering a lot of cod to the shareholders. Considering all the news about cod we are not surprised by all the questions.

In fact, the questions have provided us with a chance to talk about a concept NAMA and many fishermen and fishing community organizations we have been working with have been advocating for in quite a few years: finer scale management of fisheries.

What does that mean, you ask?
Gadus Marhua
The ocean is not one homogeneous body of water. There are distinct ecosystems within its ecosystems. And, many species of fish actually exist as numerous sub-populations rather than one uber stock.

Emerging science is showing us that cod in the Gulf of Maine live in discrete sub-populations and those are composed of numerous smaller spawning groups that prefer their own specific spawning grounds. There is Gulf of Maine cod, which federal managers recognize and manage as one big stock spread more or less evenly over the whole area; but if we look more closely, for example, at the coastal area between Cape Ann and the Bay of Fundy in the Gulf of Maine we find that scientists have identified the Western sub-population, the Midcoast sub-population, the Eastern sub-population, and the Bay of Fundy sub-population, all of which stay pretty much to themselves. But managers have chosen to pile all sub-populations of the Gulf of Maine into one averaged stock called GOM Cod. This is just what we know about the Gulf of Maine. Georges Bank cod is another stock recognized by management and it likely has a similar story of finer scale sub-populations and spawning groups. And, considering a species as a whole when deciding whether it is sustainable to guide consumers does not work well in this context.  For example, many sustainable seafood ratings and advocacy efforts refer to cod as Atlantic Cod, which once again bunches all the distinct sub-populations together. Suggesting Atlantic Cod as a whole is either overfished or recovered is meaningless when you look more closely at the distinct populations of the species.

Consolidating separate populations into one large stock poses some major issues, amongst them whether or not we are using the right strategies for ensuring the recovery and health of all the distinct groupings of cod.

Each of the sub-populations should require special management measures based on the condition of the population and the unique ecosystem within which they live. One sub-population of cod can be healthy while another might not be.

According to the latest information from fisheries managers, the Gulf of Maine cod is no longer overfished. But they don’t make a distinction between the sub-populations of cod within the Gulf of Maine. What we do know based on what we see being landed, is that the Western Gulf of Maine sub-population – which is where fishermen for the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF fish - is much healthier than the Eastern Gulf of Maine where fishermen for the Community Fish CSF fish. That’s why the fishermen from New Hampshire and Cape Ann area are seeing such a surge in the population when fishermen from Mid-coast and Downeast Maine, for example, are seeing hardly any.

It’s hard to know why these sub-populations are recovering at different paces. It appears one sub-population’s health is independent of the other. Does the historic chlorinated waste coming from the pulp and paper mills in Maine have something to do with the slow recovery there? Does the reduction in fishing boats on Cape Ann have something to do with the health of the populations there? It’s hard to know because we haven’t been caring for the sub-populations as we should.

Don’t get me wrong… just because we are seeing a resurgence of one sub-population of cod we don’t think this ecosystem and all its sub-populations of cod or any other animals are out of the woods, yet. The point we are trying to make is if we want to do it right, we have to address the uniqueness of each area for each animal. Otherwise we’ll keep repeating the vicious cycle of boom and bust. And, the most visible target we have to blame it all on are the fishermen when in fact its our collective understanding and approach to fisheries management that may be at fault.

When it comes to how the fishermen operate, the task at hand now is to make sure the places where the Gulf of Maine cod is healthy never become overfished again. That’s why the right marketing strategies, such as Community Supported Fisheries, that allow fishermen to get the most value out of catching a biologically sensible amount of fish is imperative to ensuring we don’t go back to relying on volume but rather relying on getting a fair price to make ends meet for the shore-based fishermen.

Other species, like herring, have distinctly separate spawning stock biomasses that appear to live in a symbiotic relationship making the overall health of one dependent on other nearby ones.

In her piece Fisheries Management Relocalized Ellen Tyler shares her first hand account of bumping into the cod question as a Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF shareholder.

One step forward toward changing policies to better reflect this issue is to make sure we have the right scale, diversity and distribution of our ports and their fleets of fishing boats. Please take a moment and take action today by signing a petition to address the issue of fleet diversity and the need for the fleet to match the diversity we see in the ocean.

If you want to dig deeper into finer scale, area based management and the idea of cod sub-populations in the Gulf of Maine, you should check out the work of MacArthur Fellow Ted Ames, a fisherman, scholar and one of the founders of the Penobscot East Resource Center. He has recently published a new paper that explains how and why cod should be managed locally. In addition, check out the latest paper by fisheries economist James Wilson and Professor of Oceanography, Marine Biology and Marine Policy, Robert Steneck, both from the University of Maine.

Fisheries Management Relocalized - Tales from a Traveling CSF Shareholder

By Ellen Parry Tyler
MS Candidate Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Tufts University; And, NAMA Intern

As a local foodie interested in supporting community based food systems, one of my first investments moving to the Bay State was to purchase a share in a Community Supported Fishery (CSF).  Operating much the same way that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares do, members in a community participate by investing in a “share” or portion of a boat’s total catch, sharing some of the risk inherent in the trade, and enjoying the freshest, best tasting seafood around.  Since moving to MA, I have come to learn how to cook with local and seasonally available fish species firsthand through my weekly share of Cape Ann’s Fresh Catch CSF.   Moving to Maine for the summer, I looked forward to showing off some of my new recipes, but quickly learned that the Gulf of Maine is not a uniform ecosystem, and what fishermen are catching changes based on very local situations.  These observations have profound implications for regional fisheries management decisions, which are currently applied like a blanket, uniform across whole regions. 

In Massachusetts, more often than not, my CSF share delivered Cod. 

Drawing on the memory of near collapse of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery in the 1990s, I was tepid about filleting and eating these beautiful creatures; but Steve Parkes, my CSF coordinator, assured me that the cod is coming back.  “We did what we were supposed to do,” he said, referring to a scaling back of the amount of cod caught from the Northwest Atlantic, “and the fish came back!  This is a story of success.”  Indeed, this success is apparent in my CSF share, where I see that fishermen are catching more cod than any other fish, and it is reflected in a New England Fishery Management Council News Release (June 25,2010) which verified: “Gulf of Maine cod is no longer overfished and is at a stock size that has not been seen in 30 years.”  But what both reports miss is that the cod stocks are not rebuilding at the same rate, or in the same way throughout their historical range.  Instead, stocks are showing up only in distinct areas, particularly in the western Gulf of Maine where the fishermen who supply Cape Ann Fresh Catch happen to be fishing.

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New England Fishery Management Council Update: Time is of the Essence

Sign the Petition That Asserts: Who Fishes Matters!

By Brett Tolley
NAMA Community Organizer

and Sean Sullivan
NAMA Marketing, Development and Outreach Associate

As more and more stories pour in about groundfish quota allocations being sold and/or transferred and/or accumulated, the news, and the outlook, seems grim. We all knew consolidation was an unwritten objective for the new sector management plan adopted by the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), but do we really want a monolithic fleet controlled by large corporations or foreign banks and the demise of our traditional shore-based fleet? It happened in the Surf Clam/Ocean Quahog fishery in the Mid-Atlantic region and all the signs are pointing in the same direction for the Northeast groundfish fishery.

The economics are simple. Recent reports indicate that Cod quota is being leased for $1.50/lb landed fish and permits being sold outright for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cod prices vary seasonally from $1/lb to $3/lb at auction with $2/lb the norm. For fishermen, leasing quota represents an additional fixed cost of 30-100% of their gross income. For most small-scale fishermen struggling with small allocations to begin with, leasing quota or buying permits would be financial suicide (even if they could afford them or find a bank crazy enough to finance such a purchase).  And conversely, leasing their quota to someone else provides a steady paycheck only slightly less than they could make fishing – without the risk. A Devil’s bargain if ever there were one: fish and eke out a living on a small allocation or give up the job you love.  

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A Well Oiled, Efficient Ocean?

NAMA Newsletter

June 15, 2010

A Well Oiled, Efficient Ocean?

By Niaz Dorry, NAMA's Coordinating Director

If you aren't moved by the images from the Gulf of Mexico as oil gushes forth into that marine system, you should check your pulse. Boyce Thorne Miller's piece "All the King's Horses..." walks us through the history of the Gulf and what we need to do to make sure we prevent future mistakes that will not only affect the marine ecosystem but the lives of those who depend on it for their livelihoods.

The decision to drill is supposedly all about getting us fuel the most economically efficient way possible. We are now seeing the real cost of cheap fuel. But the wrongful application of economic efficiency doesn't stop at drilling for oil. Decisions are too often made using a false definition of economic efficiency, usually narrowly focused on the lowest cost of production.

When it comes to food systems, feeding the world's hungry is used as an excuse to employ industrial systemsA Sea of Cows: Image courtesy of Flickr.A Sea of Cows: Image courtesy of Flickr. that argue they have the lowest cost of production. This argument ushered in the Green Revolution and the ecological, economic, community, and health problems it brought along. Somewhere along the line, advocates for industrialization forgot that lowest cost of production is what you jump to if all other values are equal. When it came to our food grown on land, the family farmers plight was couched as purely an economic one. Therefore, agribusiness argued that the least efficient small and medium sized farms - had to go because they wouldn't be able to provide mass quantities of food cheaply enough to feed the world. No one asked cheap food at what cost.

What didn't happen at the onset of the farm crisis and we know now mostly due to hindsight, is that all other values were, in fact, not equal. Consolidation came with economic, ecological, health and community costs.

Since many marine animals are caught to feed our food systems, as fisheries managers and policy makers ponder whether and how to consolidate the fishing industry, it's important to remind them what we have learned in hind sight particularly if the argument in favor of consolidation is that those who can catch the most with the lowest cost of production should be fishing because we now know that all other values are not equal.

As laid out by Brett Tolley in his piece "No Consolidation Without Vision," the time is now to let the policy makers know that you don't want the mistakes of the past repeated. You can add your voice to others' by signing the Fleet Vision petition.

And while you are here, please take a moment and welcome Sean Sullivan to NAMA staff. You can read more about Sean below. We're glad to have him on board. His addition is sure to make our operations much more efficient!


All The Kings Horses and All The Kings Men...

by Boyce Thorne Miller, NAMA's Science and Policy Coordinator

Make no mistake; the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is broken, perhaps beyond repair - certainly beyond our ability to repair it. If somehow the shattered pieces come back together Bird in Oil: Image courtesy of the EPABird in Oil: Image courtesy of the EPAagain, it's pretty certain it won't look or function like it did before the spill. Many who don't live along the Gulf coast  will probably have forgotten what that was like anyway. But those Louisianans, Arkansans,  Mississippians, Alabamans, and Floridians, Texans (and perhaps others) whose health, livelihoods, and happiness are destroyed by this event will not soon forget. Can we help our fellow fishing communities? Can we prevent similar disasters from happening in the future - there and here? 

A vision for the future, along with a clear vision of the past might help...to continue reading this article please click here

 

Nostalgia for a Better Future

by Sean Sullivan, NAMA's Outreach, Marketing and Development Associate

It could have been that magic moment when a sea worm on a hook lowered into the sea results in a shiny wondrous living fish flopping around on the dock. Or it could have been a deep affection for the proud nosed workboats that cluttered the harbor in my youth, each telling a story by their wear and tear and the condition of their paint. It could have been one of those moments or a collection of a thousand fleeting glances at the ocean, a seemingly involuntary need to see it each day and register its temper. I still don't know how or why the ocean gets into one's blood, but I do know when it gets there it stays there.

During my college years, living in Portland, OR, a true deepwater port but 100 miles from the ocean proper, a constant longing for the intimate shores of the New England coast dwelled within me. It pained my mother to hear that I missed the ocean more than her cooking...to continue reading this article, please click here.


No Consolidation Without Vision - Take Action Now!

by Brett Tolley, NAMA's Community Organizer

If we truly care about our oceans and our fisheries, then "WHO" fishes matters! The New England Fisheries Management Council has made clear that fleet reduction is a priority in order to reduce total catch. However, a Council vision for who stays and who goes is absent. We learned from the experience of US farm policy that consolidation without a vision resulted in large-scale factory farming corporations driving out family Soviet Factory
 Ship: image courtesy of NOAA.Soviet Factory Ship: image courtesy of NOAA.farmers and degrading the land based environment, biodiversity, and security of the food system in this country. As it did this, it also destroyed the fabric and vitality of farming communities in the heartland.

Consolidation without a vision could result in a small fleet of homogeneous large-scale boats that fish from only a few ports and use a narrow range of gear types, scale and sizes. We know fisheries around world that have consolidated without a vision didn't achieve the ecological outcomes promised during the process...to continue reading ths article please click here.

Eat Local Seafood (excerpt from summer 2008 newsletter)

Message from the new Coordinating Director, Niaz Dorry

(Excerpt from August 2008 newsletter.  Download full version here)

July 15th marked an important occasion: fishermen standing next to farmers at a FarmAid event. NAMA was invited to attend a press conference in Boston where FarmAid's organizers announced this year's fundraising concert on September 20 will be held in Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Okay, so it's not the first time fishermen and farmers have stood next to each other - NAMA certainly has a history in this work as do others - but as far as I was concerned I was standing one step away from getting community based fishermen a place in the minds and hearts of those who share FarmAid's goals - something I've imagined for 14 years. That and FishStock!

Fourteen years ago is when I first began working on fisheries issues as a Greenpeace oceans and fisheries campaigner. One thing became quite clear right off the bat: the fishing communities were at the same fork in the road that family farmers reached decades before. Facing the onslaught of agribusiness and their slogan "we are providing cheap food to the world's hungry," family farmers weren't able to effectively promote their economic AND ecological advantages. Instead, agribusiness' message of economic efficiency, replete with boardroom charts and graphs and congressional sway, created an arena in which farmers could not compete.

With that, agribusiness forwarded their "Green Revolution" and argued that they could produce [more) food for the growing world population more efficiently and, thus, [more] cheaply. Today, aquabusiness is promoting its "Blue Revolution" the same way. This time community based fishermen and the marine ecosystem are at stake.

With early warnings ignored, it wasn't until years later that we discovered cheap food from the land comes at a pretty high price born by the soil; the farmers; long-term food security; loss of indigenous lands and economies; exposure to pesticides; increase in cancer, diabetes and birth defects; food sovereignty; decline in biodiversity; and, economic devastation in farming communities, to name a few.

It took awhile to see the many ripple affects of agribusiness' take-over of the farming models. We shouldn't wait that long to deal with the fishing ones.

In response to agribusiness, many began to fight back by building movements around areas that mattered to them most. Some focused on toxics in our food with the message: "go organic." And that caught on. To the point that agribusiness actually caught onto the niche market possibilities and joined the organic bandwagon.

And yet we are not happy that our "go organic" message caught on. Why? What's wrong with finding our organic food at big box stores as easily as - or maybe even easier than - our local food co-op? Why should we even care who puts the food in the market place?

It's not that we can never be happy, it's just that we are seeing other important dimensions of the agribusiness model - reflected also in today's aquabusiness model: their scale of operations; where they spend their money; where their money goes; how do their host communities fare culturally, economically and ecologically; where their executives live; how they treat their workers; where they invest their money; how the rest of their products are manufactured; and whether any are made using child or forced labor; and, who is their market, amongst other issues.

We are learning that there are many factors involved in making an informed decision.

But how do you calculate these issues and put them on a package of strawberries? Or a cucumber? Or a chicken? Or a fish?

Which takes me back to my first impression of the fishing world fourteen years ago (and the birth of the FishStock dream!). Back then I thought fishermen and farmers would make a perfect union. And, of course, I dreamt of connecting with FarmAid and making sure fishermen get to tell their stories. And then I kept on dreaming and I thought FishStock would be the perfect way to tell the story and similarities. I even wrote a proposal to the band Phish! But that's another story...

This spring after a semi-hiatus from working directly on fishing issues and spending two years at the Healthy Building Network, I returned to the seas. This time as the new director of NAMA. And happy to be here following in Captain Craig Pendleton's footsteps. People I haven't seen or talked with in a while keep asking me "so what do you think should happen now?" And all I can think of is the same thing I thought needed to happen 14 years ago: face the fork in the road having learned the lessons from the fight of the family farmers in the face of agribusiness and demonstrate the multi-faceted benefits of community-based fishermen in the face of aquabusiness.

I've always believed if we can visualize our dreams, we can make them happen. Being at an announcement for when FarmAid is coming to town may not be a big deal to some. But I cannot ignore the information that tells me there is a deep connection between healthy, viable fishing communities, healthy and diverse marine ecosystems as well as the quality of the food we get from the seas. Today we came one step closer to the vision to collaborate with a population who knows what it means to support a community that feeds you in a way that doesn't destroy the source of what feeds us. They know that paradigm shifts can happen.

To support family farmers now, FarmAid event's speakers all offered one suggestion: Eat Local Food.

We'd like to make sure you include seasonal seafood on your list of local foods you seek.

You might be tempted by the all-you-can-eat plate of seafood at the chain restaurant around the corner, but the cheap shrimp comes at a cost not too different than the farmers, our bodies and the land have had to bear since the green revolution. Let's nip the blue revolution in the bud.

Eat Local Seafood.

In communities such as Port Clyde, Maine, Bath, Maine, and Carteret County, North Carolina, Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) are fishing locally and selling their fish locally to their community shareholders. Modeled after Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), CSFs give the fisherman the capital s/he needs to keep their business going without having to take their market out of town and, on top of that, get more for less catch. In Port Clyde, the Midcoast Fishermen's Association's shrimp CSF paid fishermen $1 more per pound of shrimp and was still less expensive for the consumer than at the grocery store. Their CSF has been so successful they have added deliveries and species with groundfish being offered to shareholders this year.

NAMA is proud to have worked with the Port Clyde fleet to set up the first CSF in this region. Our goal is to move more consumers who choose to eat seafood towards their local fishermen. This shift is particularly important in communities where a new, stable market can make a difference between poverty and self-sufficiency. In places like Washington County, Maine where Penobscot East and Cobscook Bay Resource Centers work to rebuild fishing communities once hosting bustling ports with a robust groundfish fleet now the highest percentage of households in poverty in the state of Maine.

By eating fish caught locally, not only do we eat fresh fish, fish native to the regions we live in, during the seasons they taste best and in harmony with reproductive cycles so we don't threaten the species survival but we also ensure the economic health of local, fishing communities. The same things we are demanding of our fruit and vegetables, and animal products and hoping for our family farms.

We also send a loud message that we know that if we truly care about the health of our oceans it matters how, where and when we fish; and, who catches the fish that end up on our dinner plates.

So put those red, yellow, green seafood cards away, and whenever faced with the decision of what seafood to eat remember:

Eat Local Seafood!

 

Fleet Vision Needed Now

NAMA Newsletter

March 23, 2010

By Brett Tolley

NAMA's Community Organizer & Policy Advocate

Click on this link to sign the Fleet Vision Pledge today!

Cody crawls around on the living room floor while my brother and I talk fish. We express our various frustrations, worries, and disappoints with the New England fisheries. We gab over what the future of fishing will hold. I look over at my 6-month old nephew on the floor and wonder if one day he will have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of my brother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather as a small-scale commercial fisherman. If you ask most fishermen I know they say Cody won't have a chance. My brother agrees.

Like Cody I grew up absorbing countless hours of family fish talk. Most often the conversations revolved around the pitfalls of fisheries management. The National Marine Fisheries Service (more commonly known as NMFS) was likened to a four-letter word cautiously avoided at the dinner table. I was therefore curious to attend my first series of Council meetings and see for myself what all the hype was about.

"Often fisheries management is accused of trying to fly the airplane while simultaneously trying to build the engine", said the NOAA government staff person to the Council at one of my first meetings. A rumble of bitter chuckles filled the room. The analogy stuck with me and I sat there wondering, if fisheries management is flying a plane while simultaneously building its engine, who is paying attention to the plane's destination? In fact, nobody is. The plane could be heading east or it could be heading west. The Council could be heading toward privatizing the ocean or it could be heading toward community-based management. The Council operates with no common Vision and it's been doing business that way since 1976.

At January 2010's meeting after 34 years of visionless management, the Council acknowledged its need for a Vision. The need for a vision comes at a critical time of change for New England fisheries as we move into a new management system called Catch Shares. The airplane is charting new territory and if the destination is not carefully plotted the heading could spell disaster for many New England fishing communities. The time to adopt a Vision is now.

The good news for the Council is that the New England community has already created a common and consensus based Fleet Vision. Over a two-year process nearly 300 stakeholders from across New England participated in regional meetings, interviews, surveys, and round table discussions to create what is called the Fleet Vision Project.

The Fleet Vision Project represents the thoughts and ideas from commercial fishermen of various gear types, boat sizes, and locations, recreational fishermen, consumers, scientists, fisheries managers, shoreside industry businesses, government officials, fishing family members, outdoor writers, non-profit groups and a host of others. The following sentence summarizes the results of their work and represents the most authentic voice of the New England Community.

"A diverse, economically viable, environmentally sustainable fleet that is managed through a participatory governance structure."

Diversity, Economic Viability, Environmental Sustainability and Governance; these are the coordinates the New England community has relayed to the plane. This is the direction we want the Council to take. If the Council chooses to ignore this vision and the plane continues on without a heading, the heritage of many shoreside communities along with the ecology of our ocean and livelihoods of fishing families will continue on in serious jeopardy.

Now is the time to urge the Council to adopt the Fleet Vision Project outcomes and we need YOU to get active. Please visit the NAMA website to sign onto the "Vision Pledge" and show your support.

NAMA along with the Fish Locally Collaborative was invited to deliver a presentation to the Fisheries Council at the upcoming April meeting and we need your support. Help put the Council on a heading towards fleet diversity, economic viability, environmental sustainability and participatory governance. Management with a vision could mean a future for children like Cody and the next generation of our New England fishing fleet.

My brother and I wrap up our fish talk as Cody bounces on my knee. My brother wishes anything but a fishing life for his son. He jokes that Cody will not be allowed at the fish pier and most certainly not allowed onto any boats. Like my fishermen fathers they see the writing on the wall and it spells out struggle and continual loss for future small-scale fishermen. The future is precarious and I wonder if management will go another 34 years without a vision. Cody turns his head and vomits on my lap. This confirms my inclination that it's most certainly time for a change!

In Memory of Tom Osmers

On March 12th, 2010, New England lost a fellow fisherman and passionate advocate for small-scale fishing. Tom Osmers urged the adoption of “intentional inefficiencies” in fishing technology, recognizing that truly sustainable fishing requires us to look at both how many fish are caught, as well as how and where they are caught. He railed against the injustice of rewarding fishermen with allocation based on catch while their gear remained at sea after the fishermen returned to port. He was angered by the wastefulness of regulatory discards, and frustrated that fluke were discarded in tremendous numbers because they were not considered a groundfish. Tom witnessed the collapse of groundfishing on Martha’s Vineyard, and fervently believed that restoration required protecting the local fish and supporting the communities. His perseverance earned him the nickname, the “codfather.”

Some people remember Tom for his stalwart support of small boat communities. Others remember his perpetually good-natured demeanor, and of course, the oysters! Tom made a habit of serving oysters that he had harvested at management meetings. What a great way to spread goodwill. He could speak from the heart at the mic one moment and share a wisecrack comment while shucking an oyster the next. He loved local food, even when it required “fillet and release.”

Tom fought tirelessly for the right of his communities on Martha’s Vineyard to be able to once again fish for cod. Tom urged the New England Fishery Management Council to provide protection for small boats that used inefficient gear, and to set aside an area around the Vineyard to allow the fish to recover. When sectors were being discussed, he found it hard to believe that fishermen on the Vineyard would be asked to “invest in a stock that does not yet exist.” Yet, he had the foresight to submit one of the 17 new sector applications. He summed up his vision in his hand-written sector application - “the fish want to return to the Vineyard!”

Trickle Up or Trickle Down?

NAMA Newsletter

November 20, 2009 

National Ocean and Fisheries Policies: Trickle Up or Trickle Down?

By Boyce Thorne Miller
NAMA's Science & Policy Coordinator


"Fire! Aim! Ready!" A quote attributed to Gloucester fisherman Vito Giacalone in reference to fisheries management in New England, handily describes the processes to develop national policies and their regional implementation strategies -- "Fire! Aim! Ready!" Without a carefully selected target, 'ready' and 'aim' efforts are useless anyway, and we are left with firing at random with no guarantee that the intended targets will be reached.  A chaotic battleground is hardly new for fisheries, but we would like to hope new policies and management under the Obama Administration can move away from that scene rather than perpetuate it.  Read More >>

Meet Brett Tolley

By Brett Tolley

NAMA's Community Organizer and Policy Advocate

Five years ago I met Ramon near the deadly Sonora desert in Nogales, Mexico.  Ramon was a sixth-generation corn farmer from Southern Chiapas.  In recent years multi-national corporate farm interests systematically pushed middle-class farmers, like Ramon, off the land.  Ramon, along with millions of others, was displaced from his livelihood and traveled North desperate for work.  Ramon was 54, the same age as my father.   Read More >>

Changing Food Discussions to Include SEAfood

By Andrianna Natsoulas

NAMA's Market Transformation and Food Justice Coordinator

Over the past several years, the food justice and local food movements in the United States have been growing. But, often when people think about local foods, they only think farmers and agricultural products. NAMA is working to bring SEAfood into this growing movement.  Read More >>

"Green" Seafood?

Fall 2008 Newsletter By: NAMA Staff

Our inbox raneth over in response to our last newsletter "Eat Local Seafood." So much so that we couldn't respond to all of you individually.

On everyone's mind seemed to be the question "what seafood should we eat? "

In another words, is there such a thing as "green" seafood?

One's taste for seafood is often dictated by culture, geography, religion, tradition, income, and, of course, taste. Whatever your reason for wanting seafood, we at NAMA are not a big fan of declaring any specific seafood "green." Too often many factors that can help determine the "green-ness" of seafood are ignored in the attempt to make it easier for us to make purchasing decisions at the cost of the oceans and those who catch the seafood we eat.

In fact, most of the current standards do not recognize the ecological value of locally caught seafood. We believe when it comes to who should catch our seafood, connection to coastal communities creates a much stronger sense of conservation and stewardship than a connection to Wall Street.

Without addressing these issues fish considered "green enough" to eat by various labels, standards and certifications could easily end up on the list of over-fished species or create other environmental or economic ripple effects.

Take Atlantic herring, for example. In the late 90s, herring was green-lighted by some seafood standards because herring populations were considered robust by today's fisheries management policies - which are a huge part of the problems facing our oceans.

But Atlantic herring is a critical part of the diet of many recovering marine animals living in the waters off of New England. Herring's population rebounded after being over-fished by factory vessels off the coast of New England in the 60s and 70s. But many of its predators' populations have drastically declined due to a variety of environmental stresses - including overfishing. Unfortunately, fisheries managers seem to look at the ocean as a body of water full of single species of fish we like to eat rather than an ecosystem.

But it takes an ecosystem to save the oceans or single species of fish pleasing to our palates, so the relationship between the predator and the prey - such as that between herring and its many predators such as cod or whales or seabirds or bluefin tuna - need to be accounted for properly when management decisions are made. This lack of accounting is one of the many flaws of fisheries management policies today.

Even worse, food fish like herring are usually small, economically low-value fish which means a lot of them need to be caught to make catching them profitable. As a result, they lend themselves to industrial-style, factory fishing operations. Herring's history alone tells us that is not good for the fish and the rest of the ocean - not to mention the coastal fishing communities waiting for many of herring's predators to rebound to an ecologically sound and economically sustainable levels.

Herring is just one example of the complexities involved in declaring a particular seafood "green." We believe the more we know about what happens to the fish that end up on our plates the more likely we are to get involved in the policy level changes that need to take place to ensure that the oceans are healthy enough to continue feeding us - and all the other creatures that feed on the seas - for generations to come.

Keeping all that in mind, we have decided to avoid telling you what specific seafood is "green enough" to eat. Instead, we are offering some general points to keep in mind when and if you choose or have to eat seafood:

  • Buy from a local fisherman when possible. Doing so helps a more sustainable way of life and better jobs in traditional fishing communities. Eating local seafood means fishermen get a better return on less catch - which in turn means the ocean gets a break. Money spent locally tends to stay in the community, which for those of you who live in coastal communities means you'll be supporting your own local economy. Buying from a community-based fisherman also ensures to some extent that you are eating fish that is "in season" rather than perpetuate the century-old demand for "any seafood, any time" regardless of the ecological consequences.
  • Get involved in a Community Supported Fishery (CSF). NAMA is actively working to create CSFs in New England and provide the basic tools to fishing communities in other regions interested in staring a CSF. In addition, we are working to broaden the market for CSFs and other fishing community-based seafood marketing efforts by building connections between these organizations and sustainable, regional markets through working with chefs, restaurants, co-operatives, farmers' markets, local food enthusiasts and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Coming soon fishermen or consumers looking to start a CSF can find all the tools they need in our upcoming CSF Bait Box.
  • What if you don't live near the coast? We highly recommend that you stick with eating what's available to you locally as much as possible. If you need to have seafood, look at the rest of our suggestions below and stick with what has had to travel the shortest distance to get to your table.
  • Eat fish that looks like fish! That's a funky way of saying stay away from overly processed fish that is turned into squares or fingers or some other shape. And don't be afraid of whole, bone-in fish. Good cooks know that's where the flavor is! For a good, easy recipe for using a whole fish, check out the No Fuss Fish Soup recipe used by Angela Sanfilippo of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association at a seafood demonstration organized by NAMA as part of our Seafood Throwdown series this summer at Cape Ann Farmers' Market.
  • Avoid fake or imitation seafood products. Majority of fake seafood products comes from factory style fishing operations. Alaska Pollock is probably the number one fish that is on the market today in just about every form and shape. It's turned into surimi to make fake lobster or crab or some other fake seafood product. Incidentally, like herring, Alaska Pollock is an important part of the North Pacific's food web.
  • Eat wild seafood whenever possible. Some shellfish are farmed in operations that produce healthy animals and do not compromise the ecosystem in which they are grown. However, it is often difficult to get the information that will allow you to make an informed decision. With a few exceptions, shrimp is usually farmed in coastal areas of Asia and South/Central America where it destroys wetlands, introduces chemical pollution and disease, and may foster poor treatment of laborers. Most shrimp consumed in the US is farm raised and imported. Also, for all farm-raised seafood, do not trust an "organic" label, as true standards are not yet developed. If you can't get the information you need, opt on the side of caution and go wild!
  • Ask how, where, and when your fish was caught. Doing so lets your seafood dealer or waiter or chef know you care about their buying choices. If whoever is selling or serving you the fish doesn't have the answers, or the answers you wanted, don't buy or order it.

We wouldn't have to think this hard about what we eat from the seas if policies and regulations were ecosystem and community based. NAMA believes that through a grassroots movement of fishermen, fishing community organizations and those who eat their catch we can transform today's fisheries policies towards ones that recognize the oceans are complex ecosystems and not bodies of water that magically produce single species of fish that pop onto our plates. And, who catches what does pop onto our plates matters.

Green Jobs on the Blue Ocean

A message from Niaz Dorry

Coordinating Director

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance

February 3, 2009

When I first started working on fisheries issues, one thing became clear right off the bat: this is not a jobs vs. environment issue. Saving the oceans doesn't have to lead to putting fishermen out of work. In fact, if we spend our resources, stimulus funds, and overall energy ensuring fisheries policies are community and ecosystem based, we can actually save the fish and create more jobs in coastal fishing communities.

As I dove further into the fishing world, I realized many fishermen cared more about the oceans, knew more about its ecology than most folks working on marine conservation, and had better ideas about what it would take to fish while protecting marine resources for future generations than most policy experts.

With all the talk about a green collar economy today from the new Obama administration - especially today as the Green Jobs Expo is kicked off in DC - and the discussions around how best to spread the economic stimulus package, it is imperative that green fishing jobs be a part of these plans. The current version of the stimulus package proposes over $150 million that in the wrong hands could pave the way for fewer conservation minded fishermen on the water and rapid industrialization of fisheries in New England. This is the wrong direction if our goal is saving the fish.

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that all fishermen are perfect.But there are fishermen who make a living through fishing and then there is an industry that wants to make a killing. Think family farmers vs. agribusiness. Think renewable clean energy vs. dirty non-renewable energy. We already know the effects of bad energy practices on our health, economy and planet; and, industrial scale food production on our environment, communities, and natural resources. So while not perfect, I rather see those with the potential to do right by the oceans fishing than those who see it simply as the next commodity to be mined.

The work of removing sea life from our oceans and bringing it to our plates must be based on sustainability and conservation, not the best return on someone's investment. As family farmers have been pushed off the land due to poor policy decisions that favor consolidation, industrialization and global exports, community-based fishermen have been pushed out of the sea. Current fisheries policies don't address issues of scale and ecological responsibility. If we are serious about saving the fish but aren't telling the world to stop eating seafood, we need policies that perpetuate the most number of jobs in coastal communities while ensuring the smallest ecological footprint. As they stand, today's fisheries policies turn a blind eye to the health of the ocean ecosystem, appropriate scale of fishing practices and importance of coastal fishing economies.

And it's not just the fishermen who should be part of the green collar economy discussion. The right boat builders, processors, local marketers and the entire fishing community are part of the ecological and economic fabric that can keep the oceans healthy while keeping at bay the threats of industrialization of our marine resources.

Stimulus packages, fisheries regulations and marine conservation policies should support and promote:

  • Fishermen who pledge to fish sustainably, protect the marine environment and use gear that catch target fish, not unwanted or endangered species.
  • Fishermen who are conne cted to a community and not part of a globally mobile, industrial fishing fleet.
  • Green boat, fishing gear and engine designers who focus on fuel efficiency, green-gear compatibility, on-board waste storage or recycling, environmentally healthy, non-toxic materials.
  • Seafood marketing experts that focus on transforming markets from export to local and provide access to seasonal, affordable, nutritious food that travel a short distance to reach consumers.
  • Direct marketing that allows fishermen to catch less fish for a higher value, while consumers pay less than at the grocery store chains.
  • Processing plants to serve local and regional markets and reverse trends of transporting fish thousands of miles to reach our plates.
  • Shoreside maintenance facilities that service green designs without polluting - e.g. boat yards, marine fuel stations, green ports.
  • Multi-faceted marine ports that are versatile and adaptable; not dependent on a single fishery or industry for economic sustainability.

So as we forge ahead with creating the parameters of a green collar economy, let's make sure we don't leave the oceans out to dry.

 

 

All photos courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce. In order from top to bottom: William B. Folsom, NMFS. Stone crab fishermen loading their traps on board. Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida; William B. Folsom, NMFS. A shrimp boat heads out for the fishing grounds. Aransas Pass, Texas; Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps (ret.). Fishing boats at Cordova, Alaska; and, Dory used as purse seine boat fishing for herring on the Maine coast.

Newsletter Document Archive (PDF)

A critical step forward in the battle to save the community-based fleet took place two weeks ago when the New England Fisheries Management Council voted to address fleet diversity as a priority in the upcoming year. This marks a sea-change of sorts considering Fleet Diversity was off the council’s radar as recently as last spring. The change is the direct result of many of you choosing to weigh in through your signature, testimonies and other means.

The vote marks a culmination of efforts by NAMA and our partners including fishermen, food system activists, community advocates, and non-profit allies who traveled to testify, recorded video, signed our petition, and spread the message that ‘Who Fishes Matters’.Photo by Niaz Dorry Together, we worked to ensure family based fishermen and fishing communities are fairly represented and protected in the new Catch Share regime. We are forging the path toward a shared Fleet Vision and now look to the challenges ahead.

The vote also marks the beginning of a much more difficult and perhaps protracted battle: How do you define Fleet Diversity? And how do you achieve fleet diversity? Based on the Fleet Vision Project, which has a clear vision statement on Fleet Diversity, and evidence from other Catch Share programs the measures we feel will ensure the diversity of the fleet include: fishing quota set-asides that invest in fishing communities, leasing policies that foster an affordable fishery, owner-operator incentives, opportunities for new and/or younger fishermen to enter the fishery, and accumulation limits.

Each of these measures tackles a different aspect of a diverse fleet and ultimately will ensure an ecologically viable and sustainable ecosystem supporting an economically and socially just fishery. However no single measure in and of itself will work to ensure a diverse fleet.

Allocation caps are a proven means to prevent the kinds of consolidation that are a hallmark of Catch Share programs, the most egregious example being the Mid Atlantic Ocean Quahog/Surf Clam fishery where uncontrolled consolidation resulted in around 90% of all permits being owned by two banks. Quota owners were effectively able to control how, when and how much fish was brought to shore and the price paid to the fishermen. This was also the case in some of the Alaska crab fisheries. Allocation caps simply prevent one person, corporation, or entity from gaining unfair leverage over markets, pricing, and the political process.

Policies addressing leasing of fishing rights should foster an affordable fishery not one where leasing leads to consolidation of the fishing fleet and aggregation of fishing rights by a few fiscally-powerful players. Leasing restrictions existed under the previous management system called Days at Sea, which effectively controlled the flow of leasing between classes of boat sizes. For example, a 90ft. boat could not lease from a 40ft boat. Currently there is no such leasing policy under Catch Share management. Such policies can help protect a diverse fleet as well as maintain the cost of leasing at an affordable rate. The key is to design such policies with an eye toward preventing gross consolidation and concentration of fishing power while at the same time allowing enough flexibility for fishermen to trade fishing quota as necessary, and enter and leave the fishery without devaluing their permits.

  • Fishing quota set asides can be used for any number of purposes:
  • Ensuring younger fishermen have an opportunity to enter the fishery.
  • Enabling Owner/operators, crew and captains to maintain reliability and dedication to stewardship and safe fishing standards while providing security.    
  • Quota set aside for adaptive management to enable adjustments to new scientific information and thereby helps achieve ecosystem goals.  
  • Conservation set-asides to reward ecologically sound fishing practices with additional quota (not to exceed accumulation limits).  
  • Research set-asides, which are already options in the New England management system should remain so.


Lastly, owner-operator incentives are a way to ensure that fishermen are the primary holders of permits as opposed to banks, financial speculators and absentee quota holders. Other Catch Share programs with no owner-operator incentives resulted in a “tenant” fishery, where the majority of permit owners lease their rights to fish and the majority of fishermen on the ocean rent their rights to fish. Experience tells us that a sea-tenant fishery undermines community values and ocean stewardship.

The above measures are just a few and we are actively working with and learning from communities who have adopted similar or additional measures to ensure fleet diversity. None of these measures in and of themselves will prevent excessive fleet consolidation. In fact, in many Catch Share programs where only one or a couple measures are put in place industrial fishing operations have been able to sidestep the restrictions. In the worst-case scenario, such as the Ocean Quahog/Surf Clam, fishery managers are now trying to retrospectively clean up the mess. We can learn from others’ mistakes.

Here in New England the NEFMC has the opportunity to be proactive, ensure we don’t head down the same road as the Ocean Quahog/Surf Clam, and their recent vote was an important step forward to secure a just and sustainable fishery, but much work remains. We’ll be looking for more testimonies, video or in-person, to support maintaining and preserving a diverse fleet and moving towards a shared fleet vision.

Click here to return to NAMA December 2010 Newsletter

A critical step forward in the battle to save the community-based fleet took place two weeks ago when the New England Fisheries Management Council voted to address fleet diversity as a priority in the upcoming year. This marks a sea-change of sorts considering Fleet Diversity was off the council’s radar as recently as last spring. The change is the direct result of many of you choosing to weigh in through your signature, testimonies and other means.

The vote marks a culmination of efforts by NAMA and our partners including fishermen, food system activists, community advocates, and non-profit allies who traveled to testify, recorded video, signed our petition, and spread the message that ‘Who Fishes Matters’. Together, we worked to ensure family based fishermen and fishing communities are fairly represented and protected in the new Catch Share regime. We are forging the path toward a shared Fleet Vision and now look to the challenges ahead.

The vote also marks the beginning of a much more difficult and perhaps protracted battle: How do you define Fleet Diversity? And how do you achieve fleet diversity? Based on the Fleet Vision Project, which has a clear vision statement on Fleet Diversity, and evidence from other Catch Share programs the measures we feel will ensure the diversity of the fleet include: fishing quota set-asides that invest in fishing communities, leasing policies that foster an affordable fishery, owner-operator incentives, opportunities for new and/or younger fishermen to enter the fishery, and accumulation limits.

Each of these measures tackles a different aspect of a diverse fleet and ultimately will ensure an ecologically viable and sustainable ecosystem supporting an economically and socially just fishery. However no single measure in and of itself will work to ensure a diverse fleet.

Allocation caps are a proven means to prevent the kinds of consolidation that are a hallmark of Catch Share programs, the most egregious example being the Mid Atlantic Ocean Quahog/Surf Clam fishery where uncontrolled consolidation resulted in around 90% of all permits being owned by two banks. Quota owners were effectively able to control how, when and how much fish was brought to shore and the price paid to the fishermen. This was also the case in some of the Alaska crab fisheries. Allocation caps simply prevent one person, corporation, or entity from gaining unfair leverage over markets, pricing, and the political process.

Policies addressing leasing of fishing rights should foster an affordable fishery not one where leasing leads to consolidation of the fishing fleet and aggregation of fishing rights by a few fiscally-powerful players. Leasing restrictions existed under the previous management system called Days at Sea, which effectively controlled the flow of leasing between classes of boat sizes. For example, a 90ft. boat could not lease from a 40ft boat. Currently there is no such leasing policy under Catch Share management. Such policies can help protect a diverse fleet as well as maintain the cost of leasing at an affordable rate. The key is to design such policies with an eye toward preventing gross consolidation and concentration of fishing power while at the same time allowing enough flexibility for fishermen to trade fishing quota as necessary, and enter and leave the fishery without devaluing their permits.

  • Fishing quota set asides can be used for any number of purposes:
  • Ensuring younger fishermen have an opportunity to enter the fishery.
  • Enabling Owner/operators, crew and captains to maintain reliability and dedication to stewardship and safe fishing standards while providing security.    
  • Quota set aside for adaptive management to enable adjustments to new scientific information and thereby helps achieve ecosystem goals.  
  • Conservation set-asides to reward ecologically sound fishing practices with additional quota (not to exceed accumulation limits).  
  • Research set-asides, which are already options in the New England management system should remain so.


Lastly, owner-operator incentives are a way to ensure that fishermen are the primary holders of permits as opposed to banks, financial speculators and absentee quota holders. Other Catch Share programs with no owner-operator incentives resulted in a “tenant” fishery, where the majority of permit owners lease their rights to fish and the majority of fishermen on the ocean rent their rights to fish. Experience tells us that a sea-tenant fishery undermines community values and ocean stewardship.

The above measures are just a few and we are actively working with and learning from communities who have adopted similar or additional measures to ensure fleet diversity. None of these measures in and of themselves will prevent excessive fleet consolidation. In fact, in many Catch Share programs where only one or a couple measures are put in place industrial fishing operations have been able to sidestep the restrictions. In the worst-case scenario, such as the Ocean Quahog/Surf Clam, fishery managers are now trying to retrospectively clean up the mess. We can learn from others’ mistakes.

Here in New England the NEFMC has the opportunity to be proactive, ensure we don’t head down the same road as the Ocean Quahog/Surf Clam, and their recent vote was an important step forward to secure a just and sustainable fishery, but much work remains. We’ll be looking for more testimonies, video or in-person, to support maintaining and preserving a diverse fleet and moving towards a shared fleet vision.

If we care about the health of our oceans, fishing communities, and our food system, then who fishes matters. But fisheries policies and regulations don’t reflect this and we’re working to change that.

In New England, the groundfish fishery is transitioning into a new ‘Catch Share’ management system, with its promises to improve ecological stewardship of our oceans. However, we know that uncontrolled ‘Catch Share’ programs haven’t taken into account who actually fishes for our seafood. Instead, around the world Catch Shares have consolidated the fishing industry into monolithic, industrial scale, absentee owner fishing fleets. We believe this direction undermines communities, ecosystems, and our food system.

To continue reading please CLICK HERE.

 

by Brett Tolley - NAMA's Community Organizer

For June 15, 2010 NAMA Newsletter

If we truly care about our oceans and our fisheries, then "WHO" fishes matters! The New England Fisheries Management Council has made clear that fleet reduction is a priority in order to reduce total catch. However, a Council vision for who staysand who goes is absent. We learned from the experience of US farm policy that consolidation without a vision resulted in large-scale factory farming corporations driving out family farmers and degrading the land based environment, biodiversity, and security of the food system in this country. As it did this, it also destroyed the fabric and vitality of farming communities in the heartland.

Consolidation without a vision could result in a small fleet of homogeneous large-scale boats that fish from only a few ports and use a narrow range of gear types, scale and sizes. We know fisheries around world that have consolidated without a vision didn't achieve the ecological outcomes promised during the process.

The Council needs a vision that reflects what we have learned to date so we do not repeat the same mistakes again.

The New England community has a Vision for "Who" should fish. Over a two-year visioning process, a diverse group of commercial and recreational fishermen from all geographical areas, boat sizes, and gear types came together with scientists, fisheries advocates, community members and shore-side businesses to create a long-term vision for the fleet. One of the participating fishermen said the Fleet Vision Project was as comprehensive and detailed an effort as New England had ever seen. The Vision for a diverse fleet states:

"A geographically distributed commercial and recreational fleet that includes all gear types and boat sizes. Clearly the community values and understands the need for many different boat sizes and gear types that provide diverse products to markets. The community strongly dislikes the possibility of a fleet that is consolidated either by ownership or geography, and participants in this project advocate many jobs and coastal community welfare over economic efficiency."

Tell Council that you support the Fleet Vision Project that calls for a diverse fleet by taking the PLEDGE.  NAMA along with a team of fishermen and non-fishermen will be carrying your message to the Council this June 23. We need your support!

CLICK HERE to return to the NAMA Newsletter

If we truly care about our oceans and our fisheries, then “WHO” fishes matters! The New England Fisheries Management Council has made clear that fleet reduction is a priority in order to reduce total catch. However, a Council vision for who stays and who goes is absent. We learned from the experience of US farm policy that consolidation without a vision resulted in large-scale factory farming corporations driving out family farmers and degrading the land based environment, biodiversity, and security of the food system in this country. As it did this, it also destroyed the fabric and vitality of farming communities in the heartland.

Consolidation without a vision could result in a small fleet of homogenous large-scale boats that fish from only a few ports and use a narrow range of gear types, scale and sizes. We know fisheries around world that have consolidated without a vision didn’t achieve the ecological outcomes promised during the process.

The Council needs a vision that reflects what we have learned to date so we do not repeat the same mistakes again.

The New England community has a Vision for “Who” should fish. Over a two-year visioning process, a diverse group of commercial and recreational fishermen from all geographical areas, boat sizes, and gear types came together with scientists, fisheries advocates, community members and shore-side businesses to create a long-term vision for the fleet. One of the participating fishermen said the Fleet Vision Project was as comprehensive and detailed an effort as New England had ever seen. The Vision for a diverse fleet states:

“A geographically distributed commercial and recreational fleet that includes all gear types and boat sizes. Clearly the community values and understands the need for many different boat sizes and gear types that provide diverse products to markets. The community strongly dislikes the possibility of a fleet that is consolidated either by ownership or geography, and participants in this project advocate many jobs and coastal community welfare over economic efficiency.”

Tell Council that you support the Fleet Vision Project that calls for a diverse fleet by taking the PLEDGE. NAMA along with a team of fishermen and non-fishermen will be carrying your message to the Council this June 23. We need your support!

-Brett Tolley

By Sean Sullivan, NAMA's Development, Marketing and Outreach Associate

For NAMA Newsletter, June 15, 2010

It could have been that magic moment when a sea worm on a hook lowered into the sea results in a shiny wondrous living fish flopping around on the dock. Or it could have been a deep affection for the proud nosed workboats that cluttered the harbor in my youth, each telling a story by their wear and tear and the condition of their paint. It could have been one of those moments or a collection of a thousand fleeting glances at the ocean, a seemingly involuntary need to see it each day and register its temper.

I still don’t know how or why the ocean gets into one’s blood, but I do know when it gets there it stays there. During my college years, living in Portland, OR, a true deepwater port but 100 miles from the ocean proper, a constant longing for the intimate shores of the New England coast dwelled within me. It pained my mother to hear that I missed the ocean more than her cooking.

Like many who live and work with or near the ocean, I tend to think of the ocean as a living thing, which sounds obvious to say, but I mean it, as the young are wont to say, as my BFF, or Best Friend Forever. Image courtesy of NOAA

Growing up fishing the shores of Salem Sound I saw the end of the Russian factory ships that hovered outside Gloucester Harbor scooping up anything and everything from the ocean. I saw Cod disappear and now take pleasure in their return to numbers. I never even knew what a wonderful fish the Striped Bass was as a child, and now they are back in their place in the ecosystem.

I have also watched as year after year the number of fishing boats in my homeport of Marblehead dwindled. Like their prey under the waters their numbers have ebbed as fish became scarce and regulations became plentiful. Along with the dwindling fleet comes a more subtle yet pernicious loss to the culture of the town, the loss of a connection to our surroundings that not only is part of our history, but should be part of our present and future. And, for me, most troubling is that the local market, not 200 yards from the fish pier, sells cod and haddock from Iceland.

NAMA likes to ask the question, “If we truly care about the health of our oceans does it matter how, where and when we fish; and, who catches the fish that end up on our dinner plates?” Of course we believe the answer is a resounding yes. It is one of those questions that are just beyond rhetorical, as most people will answer, “yes”. It is really the consequences of answering “yes” that is the purpose of the question.

Once you admit you care, don’t you have to do something about it? If you answer the question “Yes” do you still buy the cod and haddock from Iceland that is at least a week old – and even worse, its not any cheaper than you could get locally caught much more fresh fish? If you answer, “Yes” don’t you have to value a fresh local product more than a lower quality imported one?

Despite the problems, there is a sea change happening. People who care about their food are starting to include seafood in the discussion. Cod stocks are rebounding in many of the inshore areas that our local day-boat fishermen can find them. In fact, fishermen are more concerned now about catching their quota too quickly than about any lack of fish. Also, in what seems like an obvious step, regulators are now no longer requiring fishermen to throw their “by-catch” overboard. Fishermen are happy about this. They never wanted to kill anything from the ocean they could not land.

CSF’s are showing that people care about seafood. CSF members literally gush about how good fresh locally caught fish is, and revel in their experiences eating fish that are almost impossible to find at the local markets (even the best fishmongers are not carrying Redfish, a local stock well rebuilt, great for grilling, excellent tasty white flesh).

All of these things are positive steps but there is still a lot of work to be done. Concerned locavores (those who prefer their foods to be locally grown) are asking the hard questions about sustainability and gear types, things most consumers would not think of asking even a few years ago. The answers are not black and white (or the only slightly less oversimplified red, yellow and green). The answers are far more subtle and nuanced. Finding ways to get this message out will take time and co-operation from fishermen, shore-side workers and consumers.

For example, yes, some Atlantic Cod stocks are still in deep trouble, however our local Western Gulf of Maine stocks are expected to be listed as fully rebuilt in the coming years. Yes trawl gear can harm the ocean floor, but does that necessarily make trawl fishing a bad gear type? Again the answer requires developing an understanding of how fishermen have modified their gear to not only limit by-catch and reduce damage to the ocean bottom, but to effectively catch a targeted species quickly resulting in higher quality.

The latest bogeyman for fishermen are new rules that aim to reduce the fleet even further, and are likely to end up consolidating the fleet. If that doesn’t sound too bad, think what has happened to our family farms. Do you really want multi-national corporations being the stewards of our local seafood?

As people learn more, hopefully they will see that just outside our doors is one of the most precious resources in the world: a source of healthy, wild food. (You know how many people in the world would kill to be able to say that?) And maybe, because they care about their food, and they care about their communities they will start demanding that the local store buy fish from local dealers, that the town’s maintain the infrastructure that allows a day boat fishermen to land his catch in Marblehead. And maybe again someday the harbors will be filled with freshly painted colorful fishing boats, their noses pointing into the wind proudly and defiantly announcing that we are a people that are part of our environment.

CLICK HERE to return to the NAMA Newsletter

By Boyce Thorne Miller, NAMA's Science and Policy Coordinator

For NAMA Newsletter, June 15, 2010

Make no mistake; the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is broken, perhaps beyond repair – certainly beyond our ability to repair it. If somehow the shattered pieces come back together again, it’s pretty certain it won’t look or function like it did before the spill. Many who don’t live along the Gulf coast will probably have forgotten what that was like anyway. But those Louisianans, Arkansans, Mississippians, Alabamans, and Floridians, Texans (and perhaps others) whose health, livelihoods, and happiness are destroyed by this event will not soon forget. Can we help our fellow fishing communities? Can we prevent similar disasters from happening in the future – there and here?

A vision for the future, along with a clear vision of the past might help.

It’s almost impossible for us to comprehend what is happening in the Gulf. Even those who live there must rely on television and the internet to expose the shear magnitude – the depth, breadth, and non-stop gush of oil, the windrows of petrol-gunk, the struggling and dead birds, and models that depict the drift of underwater plumes. But while the images are ephemeral, the oil is not. We may never know the full scope of damage nor ever see what’s happening to the diversity of life beneath the sea-surface. In this, as in so many of our overachievements, man is powerless to stop what he has wrought.

Image courtesy of the EPA

To add insult to injury, the government and BP insist on presenting us with information like how much of the Gulf is still open to fishing, how many boats and booms have been deployed, how fishermen are earning money as BP hires them for response efforts (not mentioned, at the expense of their health). We should not tolerate such spin put on such a grave situation.

Does memory already fail us? The history of ecological trauma in the Gulf of Mexico does not begin with this oil spill. There was already a large lifeless hypoxic area (deprived of oxygen) fanning out seasonally in bottom waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. One can only wonder what synergism may be occurring between that and the oil drifting shoreward. And many years of daily inundation of petrochemical tainted tides, rain and air have taken major tolls on bayous and other wetlands -- the result of emissions from a variety of oil-based industries on the Gulf. More than half the Gulf’s productive wetlands were already lost to draining, dredging, logging and development, and now this oil. Do we have any idea what the Gulf and its ecosystems were like long ago when they were truly healthy and diverse? Some historians and natural historians do, and it’s something to strive to recover. We must hold on to our history if we are ever to know how to envision our future.

How easily we adjust to the slippery slope of ecological decline. It’s all around us and we simply adapt. But before we adapt we should learn to anticipate and avoid. There isn’t a contingency plan on earth that can recover more than about 10 percent of an oil spill. And if it includes dispersants, the recovery rate is even lower. So it’s time to stop blaming over the failure of an appropriate response and start complaining about the failure of prevention!

We should ask our legislators, regulators, fisheries managers and the like to work with citizens to develop a clear vision of what we want our communities, our land and our seas to look like in the future and to find fair and effective ways to get there using the best knowledge-base available. If we demand that, however, we must also take on the responsibility of adjusting our own personal lifestyles to help make it happen. Yes, the government has to change the way it operates; but we have to change the way we live in order to preserve or achieve the diversity of life and thriving communities we value. That may be the hardest part of all.

Behavior change doesn’t end with energy conservation and reduced oil consumption, which is a big enough job. We also must reevaluate our use of manufactured chemicals, how we farm, how we build cities, and how we use the ocean. Fishermen, who rely on healthy fish populations, understand the consequences all too well, for the ocean receives the outfall of all bad environmental decisions. If we needed proof that humans are part of the marine ecosystem as well as the land, the Deepwater Horizon has provided it. We must realize we can’t put complex things like the Gulf of Mexico ecosystems back together again, even with the help of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. We have to prevent them from breaking in the first place.

CLICK HERE to return to the NAMA Newsletter

 

 

From the conception of CAFC, where even the most optimistic hoped for 100 members, to the sometimes overwhelming yet insanely gratifying reality that well over 1000 people have joined this noble experiment, it has been a wild ride. And truly the biggest thanks goes to you the CAFC shareholders. Without your support, forbearance and enthusiasm none of this could have happened and all of us at CAFC want to make sure you know just how gratifying it is to be partners with all of you that has exceeded all of our wildest hopes. Not everything has gone perfectly. But rest assured we are listening.

Photo courtesy of Chris Garrity

From the conception of CAFC, where even the most optimistic hoped for 100 members, to the sometimes overwhelming yet insanely gratifying reality that well over 1000 people have joined this noble experiment, it has been a wild ride. And truly the biggest thanks goes to you the CAFC shareholders. Without your support, forbearance and enthusiasm none of this could have happened and all of us at CAFC want to make sure you know just how gratifying it is to be partners with all of you that has exceeded all of our wildest hopes. Not everything has gone perfectly. But rest assured we are listening.

The Long Road: NAMA and Amendment 13